Glamour Women of The Year Summit: Activism, Entrepreneurship, & Inspiring Women

The Glamour Women of The Year Summit was an immersive experience that brought women together to learn, laugh and become inspired. Set in a 4,800 sq. ft. light-flooded production hall at Spring Studios in the heart of Tribeca, the room buzzed with the palpable energy of determined women. The lineup boasted a selectively curated list of female talent ranging from actresses and politicians to teen activists and entrepreneurs; and each moment was designed to provoke thought in delightful, and sometimes unexpected ways.

Upon arrival, event staff all clad in matte black uniforms escorted guests to the fifth floor for breakfast. The elevators opened onto a mezzanine equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows that revealed an expansive view of the Hudson river, and banquet-style seating dotted with purple tulip arrangements. After indulging in petite parfaits and almond croissants, guests were whisked away to the production hall for a rousing introduction from comedienne and podcast host, Phoebe Robinson.

But, in contrast to the poshness & flirty decor, there was authentic & heavy-hitting journalism

Source: Glamour.com  Photo: ILYA S. SAVENOK

Source: Glamour.com

Photo: ILYA S. SAVENOK

“From Anguish to Action: How to Lead During Crisis”.

Samantha Barry, editor-in-chief of Glamour took the stage to facilitate a discussion with Karen Attiah. Attiah, the Global Opinions Editor of the Washington Post, recruited columnist Jamal Khashoggi whose brutal murder by the Saudi Prince in Turkey has launched an international political crisis. Fighting back tears, Attiah detailed her reaction to the murder and how its “not just an attack on journalism; it’s an attack on his family and us at the The Washington Post.”

As one of the few black females in journalism, she also spoke about the difficulty of her role and the pressure she feels to carry the burden of responsibility for the entire race. She noted Trump’s flagrant disrespect of black female reporters, and how his language attempts to reinforce an idea that black women are not smart, worthy or even capable. Defeating this notion through her presence and gravitas, she offered the audience sage advice: ask questions “as a way of pushing back”, and to continue expressing what you’re going through as a “form of creating bonds, solidarity, and activism.”

There were young millennial business owners paving the way for female entrepreneurship

Source: Glamour.com  Photo: ILYA S. SAVENOK

Source: Glamour.com

Photo: ILYA S. SAVENOK

“Turn a Big Idea Into Bigger Business”

Sutian Dong, a partner at the Female Founders Fund, which is an early-stage investor of tech companies founded by women, took the stage to host a panel on entrepreneurship next. The panel featured Audrey Gelman (Co-founder & CEO, The Wing), Ty Haney (Founder & CEO, Outdoor Voices) and Jen Rubio (Co-founder & CBO, Away). They spoke about the initial failures they all experienced while trying to fundraise investment capital from all-male VC firms and the disparities between male and female representation in entrepreneurship. For those of us looking to start our own businesses, they left behind some key takeways:

  • Don’t let rejection deter your ambition: Part of the fundraising process is about getting rejected. So get smart and get ahead. After getting rejected a few times, Ty Haney started sending leggings and product to the investors’ wives and daughters ahead of her pitches for their seal of approval and then she started getting yes’s.

  • Activate a community that evangelizes your product: An active community that is amped up about your product will be the pulse of your brand. You’ll never have to spend money on customer acquisition.

  • Make sure you really want it: If you think being an entrepreneur is a quick path to money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. There are a lot of unknowns in entrepreneurship and you need discipline, focus, and fiery execution.

There was a newly discovered hidden figure & style icon

Source: Glamour.com

Photo: CRAIG BARRITT

“History is Happening Now. What’s Your Role?”

In what was perhaps the most emotionally captivating discussion of the day, Kimberly Drew took the stage with 97-year-old Betty Reid Soskin to discuss standing up for what you believe in and staying optimistic in times of crisis. At 97, Soskin is the oldest National Park Ranger who has dedicated her life to undoing the erasure of people of color from historical narratives.

Between her grandmother, her mother and herself, they were each present for major events in our nation’s history spanning from the Dred Scott Decision (1857), which declared that African-Americans could never be free U.S citizens, to Black Lives Matter, a modern civil rights movement in which blacks are still fighting against second-class citizenship status and institutionalized racism.

Despite the struggles she’s faced in the past that also persist in the present political climate, she remains optimistic. Through a sweet and measured tone, Soskin whispered the wisdom of generations into our ears: “The answers come in the silence…The power is in us collectively. We’ve proven that since 1776. I think that’s where my optimism comes from: having lived long enough to know that’ll work out.” She also quipped that all the naysayers of her generation are dead so she has no excuse for negativity.

On her bespoke and classic style, Soskin said her goal is to stay “contemporary” as evidenced by her Apple Watch. Soskin was the only panelist to receive a standing ovation, and it was rightfully deserved.

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Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I left the venue feeling inspired and renewed—albeit a little overwhelmed. It was one of those days when you become reenergized by the hope of what your future may hold, but also one that makes you think about the precarious nature of privilege and access.

I was extremely grateful to be in that room, to meet such inspiring women and gain from their experiences, but my ability to be there was up to chance and circumstance. I made a rather whimsical decision the night before to go and I am grateful that I did. But, when you’re physically in these spaces, it is hard to simultaneously be aware of the privilege that intrinsically defines your access to them.

I say this not out of guilt or shame, but out of an effort to be more intentional about navigating these types spaces and broadening accessibility to information. While transformative and progressive in their own right, these types of events remind me of the important work that still needs to be done to narrow the resource gap and democratize access to people, information and opportunity. I continue to strive towards this goal with this blog and I hope you all find meaningful ways to be of service. How will you get started?

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